ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
After 21 hours of bluster from Senator Cruz it was hard to say what the point of the whole exercise was except to enhance his reputation in the eyes of right-wing supporters. At the very least he established that he had to be taken seriously because he has been featured on every main-stream news outlet and interviewed by every big name in the business.
He held up well whether he was making political points or reading Dr. Seuss; give him credit for staying power even if his cause was less celebrated than he might have hoped. He and pal, Utah’s Senator Lee, kept repeating their mantra that they were listening to the ‘voice of the people’ although people are always claiming they hear voices of one sort or another e.g. NYC’s notorious serial killer, son of Sam, who claimed to have been instructed by a demonic dog in his neighborhood. In this case Cruz and Lee are only talking about killing the affordable health care law or postponing its implementation for a year which is pretty much the same thing. “Not ready for prime time” they say, borrowing one of those over-used sobriquets used by unimaginative blowhards who think they’ve hit the verbal mother-lode.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There are more than five ways, of course. There are numerous product ripoffs, as described in a recent article by Lynn Stuart Parramore, who identified textbooks and bottled water and print cartridges as a few of the ways Americans are duped into paying a lot more than reason and regulation would dictate.
And there are many industry-specific ripoffs, most notably in health care. We have the most expensive health care system in the world, and yet we're falling behind other developed countries in numerous health measures.
Here are five more industry-specific ripoffs of the American people:
1. The Retail Industry (Walmart): Building Owner Fortunes With Public Tax Money
A study in Wisconsin by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce determined that a typical Walmart store costs taxpayers over $1.7 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee. A 2004 study in California put the cost per employee at $2,103.
For the year 2012, the four Walton family members made over $20 billion from their investments. That's over $15,000 per Walmart employee.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
BuzzFlash at Truthout has regularly written about the failure of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to hold the masters of the universe who gamble with America's assets legally accountable for their actions. A March 7 BuzzFlash commentary, "Holder Admits That Department of Justice Believes Big Bankers Are Above the Law," contains some of the key hyperlinks to columns we have written on this injustice.
Jeff Macke, writing on Yahoo Finance, reconfirms that the banks too big to fail are running the show in cahootz with their revolving door colleagues at the Department of Justice (and elsewhere in government, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)):
Ritholtz Wealth Managment CIO and Big Picture editor Barry Ritholtz says JPMorgan has shelled out about $11 billion in fines and spent around $16 billion in legal fees in the last few years. "This is just the cost of doing business for these mega banks."
There's the rub. Paying off regulators and settling criminal charges is only supposed to be the "cost of doing business" for criminals. When the FBI goes after the Mafia the stated goal was putting them out of business. There is no specific goal when it comes to cracking down on Wall Street. Only a portion of the settlements collected go[es] to the actual victims.
Remember, as the Cosa Nostra or the narcos consider, such "payoffs" (fines in this case) are just factored in as an expense in order to make a large profit. Remember, Jamie Dimon and his cohorts with their hands on the majority of America's banking money aren't paying a cent from their own pockets. Neither do the dons or the drug kingpins.
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Is America an empire or not? It is a loaded question because in the modern age, that word — empire — is not a moniker citizens proudly embrace in the way we might imagine the Ottomans or the Romans did during their reins. Instead, the word today evokes images of the Death Star. And so we shirk the term's implications and insinuations, much as President Obama did this week at the United Nations.
"The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries," he declared in his speech to the General Assembly. "The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy."
The rhetoric sounds nice and it deftly portrays the United States as the sympathetic victim of an international conspiracy. The problem is that it glosses over how current U.S. policies do, in fact, create an imperial footprint.
This is most easy to see when it comes to our military. According to a 2010 report by the Pentagon, the United States has 662 overseas bases in 38 different countries. Additionally, the United States recently invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and helped invade Libya. It is also prosecuting undeclared wars in Yemen and Pakistan, while propping up dictators in most of the Middle East. Oh, and we are also the world's biggest exporter of weapons and spend more on our military than most of the world combined.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The possibility of a global nuclear catastrophe as a result of the ongoing crisis at Fukushima is not only a real threat to untold lives in Japan and around the world, it is a model example of why nuclear power of any sort should not be privatized -- and should only have limited uses within governmental programs.
As reported on Monday on BuzzFlash at Truthout, the potential nuclear radiation release from "repairs" at Fukushima threaten the globe. "Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima Could Spew Out More Than 15,000 Times as Much Radiation as Hiroshima Bombing," Harvey Wasserman, a longtime anti-nuclear advocate, wrote on BuzzFlash. Truthout posted a follow-up story today that states, "We’re in very apocalyptic territory, with a wide and unknown range of outcomes."
It's hard to analyze the nuclear industry rationally when the private company, TEPCO, in Japan has just thrown up its hands and admitted it does not have a full-proof plan to prevent a nuclear disaster of proportions not yet seen. You can bet the Japanese government which has been assuring the world that everything was under control had a role in inviting international assistance in keeping Fukushima from creating a nuclear nightmare.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On September 19th, 2013 Halliburton, an oil and construction company that rose to a multibillion dollar industry under Dick Cheney’s supervision, pled guilty to federal charges of destroying critical evidence concerning British Petroleum’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Halliburton shredded the evidence because it proved that the company had committed gross negligence pertaining to cuts in safety maintenance decisions in order to increase profits. Shredding evidence: that’s probably a felony crime, right? Only if you did it or if I did it, but oil tycoons need not have to worry; the laws are conveniently shredded along with the evidence.
As Ring of Fire radio reported:
Oil giant Halliburton pled guilty on Thursday to destroying evidence related to the 2010 BP oil spill. However, unlike the other companies involved in the oil spill, Halliburton, the company responsible for cementing the well, was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster.
Halliburton agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized destruction of evidence. US District Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo in New Orleans accepted Halliburton’s plea agreement, and charged the company with the maximum-allowable fine of $200,000 and a 3-year probation term.
The company also agreed to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Poison gas is not only a "moral obscenity" — one the United States stockpiled for decades after its use was banned in warfare — but a metaphor for human recklessness and wasted science.
Like it or not, we're forced to think about it these days, since it's still an enticing pretext for war. And the more I think about it, the more I marvel at the persistent insanity of its existence. The "red line" that the so-called civilized world crossed over a century ago was not in the use of poison gas but in its creation, because it's lethal whether it's used or not. Attempting to get rid of it — by burying it, burning it, dumping it — has consequences almost as deadly as firing it off in battle.
The enormous toxic mess that encircles the globe needs serious and sustained attention, something present-day governments are, seemingly, incapable of. The fact that this mess of our own making exists at all ought to inspire not missiles and self-righteousness but the deepest questions we know how to ask. And the first question is this: How in God's name do we untangle ourselves from this mess collectively?
The 1925 Geneva Protocol, in response to the horrors of World War I, banned the use of asphyxiating and poisonous gases in war, but not, incredibly, their development or manufacture. It took the civilized world, the one John Kerry referenced in his condemnation of Bashar al-Assad, another seven decades to do that. In the meantime, there was plenty of manufacturing, developing and stockpiling of poison gas weaponry going on, including in the United States, up to and well beyond World War II.
One factual tidbit I find fascinating is that Otto Ambros, a Nazi scientist and co-inventor of Sarin, convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, came to the United States in 1951, after serving half his term, and began advising the U.S. Army on its own chemical weapons program in the '50s. Could the reality of geopolitics be exposed in starker relief? For all the moral pretenses of war and militarism, the game has no moral boundaries whatsoever.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As BuzzFlash reported on September 13, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is meeting in Stockholm. The IPCC is widely expected to issue a stern report about the dangers of ignoring human-caused climate change.
Of course, adults -- not children -- interested in profiteering regardless of its likely lethal impact on the inhabitants of the earth are the ones putting the brakes on even the most incremental of efforts to slow climate change down (if we have not already reached the tipping point).
But, as an article in the Guardian UK reports, it is the children of the planet who are going to suffer the most as a result of the current placation of global industry in regards to reversing global warming:
Children will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change because of their increased risk of health problems, malnutrition and migration, according to a new study published on Monday. And food prices are likely to soar as a result of warming, undoing the progress made in combating world hunger....
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The bluebirds of happiness are chirping away in our nation's treetops these days, for America is now in the fifth year of economic recovery. Let's all sing "Happy Days Are Here Again," for stock prices are reaching record highs, corporate profits are soaring, and even the unemployment numbers are on the mend.
But wait, what's this? Down below the treetops, way down there at the grassroots, poverty not only persists, but is spreading. Also, America's income disparity is worsening as middle-class workers are pushed into lower-wage jobs and poor people are pushed out entirely. Far from "Happy Days," joblessness among our lowest-income families is now the worst on record, having reached the staggering rate of 21 percent.
The plight of the poor in our Land of Plenty is so dramatic that even the Republican leaders of the U.S. House have noticed them and are reaching out with open hands. Unfortunately, they are not offering a helping hand to the needy, but a cold, hard slap in the face. On Sept. 19, in a gratuitous act of political pettiness and human callousness, the GOP slashed $4 billion-a-year out of the food stamp program. Well, they explained, the food stamp subsidy just keeps expanding, despite the recovery our economy is enjoying, so we have to stop the excess.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While Colorado and Washington have de-criminalized recreational use of marijuana and twenty states allow use for medical purposes, a Louisiana man was sentenced to twenty years in prison in New Orleans criminal court for possessing 15 grams, .529 of an ounce, of marijuana.
Corey Ladd, 27, had prior drug convictions and was sentenced September 4, 2013 as a "multiple offender to 20 years hard labor at the Department of Corrections."
Marijuana use still remains a ticket to jail in most of the country and prohibition is enforced in a highly racially discriminatory manner. A recent report of the ACLU, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White," documents millions of arrests for marijuana and shows the "staggeringly disproportionate impact on African Americans."
Nationwide, the latest numbers from the FBI report that over 762,000 arrests per year are for marijuana, almost exactly half of all drug arrests.